Before rushing out to bring home the first pup who catches your eye, schedule a family meeting and ask every family member to answer the following pet-selection questions.
Question: Why do we want a dog?
Answer: In addition to the obvious adorable factor, why does your family really want a dog? Do you want a family companion? A dog who can participate in sporting events, like schutzhund or dock-diving? One who can guard your livestock? An athletic dog who can keep up with your marathon training? Before making any choices, you must decide why you want to add a dog to your family to ensure you find the perfect fit.
Q: Is a particular breed best suited to our purpose?
A: Dog breeds—and mixed breeds—can be highly versatile and fill whatever jobs you create, but certain personality traits are better suited for some activities. For example, a retriever makes the ideal duck-hunting buddy, and can also be a great family dog. A Great Pyrenees is a wonderful livestock guardian, if you are looking for a dog to protect your sheep, whereas an Australian cattle dog would likely run your sheep ragged. However, if you want a couch-potato dog who enjoys the occasional walk, but much prefers the comfort of a cozy bed, a middle-aged, mellow dog is your best choice, regardless of breed.
Q: How much time do we have to devote to a dog’s care?
A: If your family is constantly running between work, school, and extracurricular activities, a young puppy may not be the ideal choice. Puppies require a great deal of work, supervision, training, socialization, and time to become a happy, well-mannered family companion. Carefully consider your family’s schedule, and whether someone will be available for house, crate, and obedience training, and everything else a puppy needs. If your family cannot devote the time necessary to care for a new puppy, consider a middle-aged or senior pet. Older pets shower you with the same amount of love, but generally require less time and attention than a puppy. Plus, they usually have some training under their belt.
Q: Will our current pets accept a new dog?
A: When thinking about adding a new dog to your family, consider your other household pets. Do you have an elderly cat or dog who would not appreciate a rambunctious young puppy creating havoc? Or, do you have a dog who is picky about their housemates? You may need a few foster trials to find a pet who comfortably fits in with your current household.
Q: Do we have room for a dog?
A: Match your future dog with your housing space. Although you may be a Great Dane lover, giant breeds need plenty of room to exercise and will likely not do well in a tiny apartment, unless you have access to a fenced-in yard that allows your dog off-leash playtime. Consider a smaller dog until you have a larger home.
Q: What is our budget for a dog?
A: In addition to deciding the amount to spend on your new dog, consider their monthly costs. Bigger dogs have bigger bills, for everything from food and treats, to parasite prevention and spay or neuter procedures. Calculate your monthly budget and determine if you have room for a giant-breed dog and their higher costs, or if you should stick to a pint-size pup with a miniscule food bill.
Q: Where will we find our new dog?
A: Once you’ve decided on the dog you’re looking for, determine where to find one. Are you set on looking only at animal shelters? Or, is a breed-specific rescue the most likely place to find your perfect match? If you want a specific breed for a particular reason, and a breed-specific rescue doesn’t have a match, search out reputable breeders. Find a breeder who keeps all their pets’ health records, including genetic disease testing, vaccinations, and deworming. If possible, meet both parents of the litter to assess personality, attitude, health, and size. Finding your family’s best match may take time, but the patience will be worth it in the end.
Unsure about the type of canine companion who will fit perfectly into your family? Although the choices can be overwhelming, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team is here to help. Take advantage of our pet selection counseling services to ensure your new furry pal is the ideal pooch to add to your pack. Give us a call for assistance.